There's Only One Way Out of a Financial Hole

It’s the 14th year of the Agora Financial Investment Symposium in which we try to take all the trends that we see playing out in the investment horizon and put them all together in one conference.

The challenge of putting together a conference like this every year is picking a theme that resonates with the many things that change year over year but tying them into a continuous story or investment thesis that makes sense.

This particular theme this year, “The Tale of Two Americas,” has its roots in the documentary film that we aired here in 2008, I.O.U.S.A. We spent time trying to look at the ideas and the personalities involved in making decisions leading up to the financial crisis in 2006, 2007, 2008, talking to the investment luminaries that were about at the time, Greenspan and Buffet and Paul O’Neill, Paul Volcker, many of the people that were purportedly guiding the economy leading up to the financial crisis of 2008.

And, to a man, they believed that the United States economy, as the world’s leading economy, was dynamic enough to grow our way out of any type of financial or fiscal hole that we were digging ourselves into during the Bush years, mainly because the way the statistics were being reported and the way that the media was telling the story was that everything was fine for 40 years.

After the Clinton administration got done with their work, they balanced the budget, and then we were going to see rising budget surpluses for 40 years. But then Bush came in and ruined everything. And then we had to fight the War on Terror, and spending got out of control, and we didn’t have enough taxes to cover the bill. We could already see that there was discord in Congress and that the rising debt was going to be a problem far before 2008.

And it seemed imperative to find out what people that had a voice, people who, when they spoke, they moved markets, to find out what they were thinking. We made that film. We debuted in at Sundance in 2008. We brought it here. And then we premiered it to a wider audience in August.

But that question of whether the US economy was dynamic enough to grow our way out of a widening fiscal hole resonated with me. I kept wondering who is going to grow our way out of this? Which actors in the economy are going to do that job? Obviously, it’s entrepreneurs. It’s not going to come from some government program that takes money from one place, gives it to another and calls that progress.